Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What to Wear to Work for Business Casual - Givenchy and White House Black Market

white house black market givenchy
What to Wear for Business Casual?  What does that even mean?  If you want to get literal, you can always reference your company's employee handbook.  That will usually cover your typical dress code and outline specifically if you are allowed to wear jeans, flip flops etc.  This post is not to meant to review the do's and don'ts of what to wear.  It is mainly so I can share one of my favorite business casual outfits.

Getting excited about a new outfit might only be something a girl can understand, but when it happens, you just want to share.  That is how I feel about the outfit pictured here.  It just makes me smile when I wear it.  I almost want to skip down the halls, it makes that much of a difference in  my mood.  Funny, how clothes can do that.

what to wear to work business casual
So, let us dive in so I can share more on my personal go-to store for professional wardrobe, White House Black Market.  O how they have my number.  Evident in the fact that when their catalog arrives in the mail, I actually get excited to flip through the pages and see what new color they are featuring.  You know that feeling when you walk in the store, and you feel like a kid in the candy shop?  This is how it feels for me.

If I am in the mall, I always find myself gravitating towards the open doors and inevitably perusing their new arrivals.  Pictured above is one of my new favorites.  I paired it with some black yoga pants and a beautiful Givenchy necklace that I purchased at Macy's.  I love the tunic (is that the right word?) because of its great flattering length, and it has a fun 3/4 sleeve with a nice PG neckline.  Perfect for the workplace.

It is one of those outfits that you wear, and it just makes you smile.  If you could not already tell, purple is my favorite color.  What is your favorite business casual outfit?  Do you have a go-to store where you shop?  I would love to hear from you.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Is It Time to Find a New Job? - 4 Questions to Ask Yourself

Time for a New Job
Are you thinking it might be time to find a new job?  Beginning to wonder if the grass is greener on the other side?  We have all been there, but is it the right time?

Here are 4 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Starting Your Job Search:

What is my personal brand?

As you job hop and change careers, your personal brand is the only thing that stays with you.  Think about the words you want others to use when describing you and your work.  Maybe your words are sophisticated and agile.  Do your resume, LinkedIn profile, social media presence, appearance, and written and verbal communication emulate those words?  If not, you might want to make some changes before you start your job search to make sure they do.  Your personal brand is what you are selling when you interview.  If it is strongly defined, you will be that much more likely to stand out from the crowd when applying to jobs.

Does a move right now make sense for my career?

Try to look at your resume or LinkedIn profile objectively.  Employers like to see some stability and career progression.  You have to ask yourself whether a new job right now will make you look like a job hopper.  Also, will the next job title make sense on your resume.  It would not make sense if you are a Director to move to a Manager position or for a payroll person to move into marketing.  Your resume tells a story.  Make sure it is the story you want to tell and that you are being purposeful about it.

Why am I looking for another job?

Sometimes you look for another job because you are bored or unchallenged.  If this is the case, you might want to connect with your manager first and explore the growth opportunities in your current company.  Maybe you can cross-train with others in new areas, take on an exciting new project, or get reimbursed for outside training certifications.  Usually though, people leave their manager before they leave a company.  So if it is because of a horrible manager, think about how you will spin that when you are interviewing and you are asked why you are looking.  You never want to bad mouth a current employer to a prospective employer.  It does not make you look good.

What should my salary expectations be?
Just because you would like a raise does not mean that the market will support it.  Research what the average salary is for a person of your experience and background.  Compare your current benefits to that of the industry standard.  If you currently have 4 weeks of vacation because of tenure, will you be willing to give that up to go to another job?  Be realistic about your expectations before you invest the time in a true job search.

If, after asking yourself these questions, you feel in pretty good shape, then it may be the right time to start looking for a new job.  Have any other other questions to add?  I would love to hear from you.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What is Target Cartwheel? - Secret Coupons and Savings

Target Coupons and Savings
What is Target Cartwheel?
Well, let me take a few steps back to explain how I stumbled upon this savings program.  My wardrobe surprisingly lacks a very important category of clothing - Comfy Clothes.  I know, strange right?  I am sure most people do not have this problem, but way back when I started working and money was tight, I swore only to buy clothes I could wear to work.  Fast forward to today, when I was shopping at Target this morning, trying to buy some "comfy clothes."  I had picked out a number of selections and proceeded to the fitting room.  Upon leaving the fitting area, I had selected 2 pairs of C9 by Champion pants and a Liz Lange long-sleeved shirt (Let us ignore that I am still purchasing maternity wear brands post-baby.  I must say though that they are super comfy and flattering).  I had given the fitting room employee 3 C9 brand shirts that had not worked out.

As I was walking away, the fitting room employee called out to me, "Do you have an iPhone?"  I looked around.  Was she talking to me?  She was.  What a weird question.  I was slightly intrigued and slightly skeptical.  What was this about?  She said "C9 is 40% off on Cartwheel today."  It meant nothing to me.  What was she talking about?  She proceeded to pull out her iPhone and that is when my mind exploded.  Just kidding, but seriously, I was in awe.  In a nutshell, Target has an app called Cartwheel that apparently has secret coupons and savings that I had no idea existed.

The app kind of reminds me of Foursquare and Facebook combined.  It has an activity tab where I can see what deals my friends have added.  You can earn badges and browse deals by searching collections or scanning barcodes in store.  It is like an electronic coupon book, and at the end, all you have to do is show your phone to the checker to get your hidden discounts.

Fast forward to checkout.  My total came out to $102.57.  I showed the checker my Cartwheel app barcode, and she scanned it.  It seemed too easy.  I asked about coupons, because I assumed if you used Cartwheel, then it must exclude the use of other discounting deals.  Surprise!  Coupons can be used IN ADDITION to CARTWHEEL.  I was excited because I also had a Target coupon for $8 off and was able to use my Target Visa for an additional 5%.  The grand total after everything was $56.40!  For a TOTAL SAVINGS of $46.17!  I am still trying to figure out what Cartwheel is all about, but bottom line is it has already saved me a bunch of money.  I signed up using my Facebook and was surprised to find 30 of my friends already on it.  Why had no one told me about it?  Well, I am not going to be one of those friends.  I plan to share the news!  Hence this blog post.

So, have you heard about Target Cartwheel?  Have you used it?  Do you know of any other secret coupon apps or programs that are not highly advertised?  Please do share.

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

How to Negotiate Your Salary - Do's and Don'ts of Salary Negotiation

Salary Negotiation
How to Negotiate Your Salary.  Always a tough topic for people because money can be a sensitive issue.  You do not want to sell yourself short but you also do not want to price yourself out of a job.

In most cases, it probably makes sense to wait for the employer to bring up salary.  In many cases, you will provide salary history during the application or interview process, so it should take care of itself.  If however, you have gone through a phone screen and an in-person interview, and you think they are interested, then you might wish to mention it.  It really depends on your situation.  If you are currently happy and working, and really would only make a move if the opportunity and salary were right, then it makes sense to bring up the number it would take to make you move.  If however, you are negotiable on salary because your current situation is not ideal, then it might be prudent to wait until they breach the topic.

So what are your salary requirements?

I recommend you do some research before answering this question.  Find out what the average salary is for someone in your role.  Be sure to take into consideration where you live, how many years of experience you have, and the amount of education you have completed.  Indeed is pretty quick and fairly accurate. is another popular one, but the free salary reports tend to overshoot the market by quite a bit.  Payscale is another great resource for salary information.  This website gives you a better personal snapshot because it walks you through a series of questions related to your specific work experience, and you get a free personalized report at the end.

Is it always okay to counter offer?  

It depends.  Many times HR professionals are used to counter offers and candidates asking for the sake of asking.  If there is wiggle room on budget, you will definitely find out with a counter offer.  On the other hand, if salary has been discussed in detail beforehand, and the company asked you specifically what you wanted and delivered, then it would be inappropriate to counter.  In such a case, it could be a faux pas that loses you the job, and the hiring manager might choose to go with his or her second choice instead.

How do you know when you should no longer push for more money?  

If the company responds to a counter offer by sticking with their initial offer, then you should probably no longer push for more money.  If they counter your counter, then you could counter back.  It is not recommended, but if you truly need to in order to pay the bills, you can.  Be aware that you risk the hiring manager and thus your future manager perceiving this move as you being difficult.  If you keep asking for more money, the hiring manager might assume this is how you will be as an employee.  A manager might be put-off by this, take it as a red flag, and move onto another candidate.

If the company is firm on their salary offer, what else can you negotiate?  

Many candidates ask for more vacation, but unless you are applying at a small company, HR usually cannot make exceptions on such policies.  You could ask for a sign-on bonus or perhaps the flexibility to work remotely a couple days a week.  Again, take into account your bargaining position.  If you know this is a hard to fill role with few to no qualified candidates in the market, then you can risk negotiating for creative extras.  If however, you are applying for a more common role, you may not have very much leverage.  Do not know whether this is a hard to fill role or not?  If you get at least one call or email from an agency recruiter each week, then you are an in-demand candidate and can afford to negotiate.

So what are some other Do's and Don'ts to consider?

Don’t say salary is negotiable.  Unless you are independently wealthy and you are just working for fun, you have a salary range.  You have bills to pay and the company has a set budget.  Please do not refuse to provide a range or to give your salary history.  It only frustrates the recruiter and makes you appear less than honest. 

Do say what salary you are looking for.  Share your salary history and tell them a number that, if you were offered, you would be excited to accept.  You can mention that you are open to a lateral move but that it would depend on the opportunity.  This will give you wiggle room to negotiate later if they only offer what you are currently making.

Don’t expect a major salary increase.  While everyone likes more money, it is unrealistic to expect a huge increase just because you get a new job.  If the job is the right match for your qualifications and experience, your salary should not be too much different from what you are making now, unless you are grossly under compensated.  An increase of 5-10% would be a great goal.

Do feel free to share your salary research.  If you are offered a less than desirable offer, then feel free to share the research you did on the position.  It will either result in a good conversation and a better offer or the company will stay with its initial offer and you can read into that what you will as a reflection of their work culture.

At the end of the day, everyone just wants to feel like they are being fairly, or in the dreamworld, grossly compensated for what you do.  The company wants to know they are paying fair market value for the talent they are getting, and the individual wants to know they did not leave anything on the table.  If you do your research, negotiate genuinely, and conduct your communications with grace, you will put yourself in the best position to succeed.  Good luck!

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Sunday, January 12, 2014

How to Write a Resume AND Actually Get a Response

Resume Tips and Tricks
This is not your typical How to Write a Resume article.  Please make sure you have read all the basic Resume tips and tricks before reading this one.  I am going to assume you know how to format, spell check, and write bullet points that highlight measurable results.  If you have done this and have applied to numerous jobs without success, then this article is right for you.

Basically the point of your resume is to land an interview.  Let us assume you are applying to companies that have an actual person reviewing resumes, as opposed to a computer searching for key words.  Time is of the essence to prove to the manager or recruiter looking at your resume that you can do the job.  Make it easy for them to realize that.  You might think it is obvious how your experience applies and relates, but it is not.  When you are competing against a couple hundred resumes to stand out, anything you can do to make it obvious you are a match will be the difference between getting a response and not.

Here are 5 of my Favorite Tips to help you Take Your Resume and Chances of Getting an Interview to the Next Level:

  1. Make It Easy for the Manager and BOLD it:  Pull the job description of the role you are applying for, and look at the responsibilities and requirements.  Highlight every single one that applies to you and make sure it is in your resume multiple times.  For example, if you are applying for an inside sales role that involves cold calling, lead generation, and presentations.  Literally write a bullet point and BOLD any time in your jobs or activities where you did this.  Notice how I have bolded phrases in this article.  That is what I want you to do.  Are you a student?  Even if you just have the experience from the classroom, make it a bullet point and BOLD it.  The end goal should be a recruiter being able to skim your resume and have the words cold calling, lead generation, and presentations stand out multiple times in your experience.  A little light bulb will subconsciously go off in the recruiter’s head that says “Wow this person really has the experience I’m looking for” and that is what you want.
  2. Throw Away the Objective:  The Objective on a resume is outdated.  I prefer starting with a Professional Profile.  Underneath the section, make sure you just get straight to the point and be extra specific.  For example, go ahead and name the company you are applying at in your opening.  Here's an example for a student applying for an internship, “I am a Go-Getter working and volunteering time while I attend school.  I recognize the need to gain some real world experience and am set on landing a media sales internship at COMPANY NAME.  I am ready to hit the phones and cold call, research, deliver some impactful presentations, and whatever else is needed to help the team.”  Of course, put it in your own words so it reflects your personality and philosophy, but you get my point.  You can also see how I chose to bold certain words.  Make sure you bold what you want to stand out if they are only skimming.  The Company wants to know that you want to work specifically for them.  They also want to know what you’re going to do for them.  
  3. What’s in the Cover Letter:  Unless they specifically ask for a cover letter, I would just write what you would write in your cover letter in the email you use to submit your resume.  Do not repeat what is in your resume.  Include what your resume does not.  Maybe why you are interested in THE COMPANY specifically and who you know that works there.  If there is something obvious in your resume that you feel has stopped you from getting a call back, then address it.  Maybe you are applying for a Director role when you are a current Vice President or you have a gap in employment, or you live in a different city than the role is based.  Sometimes, recruiters do not have time to call and get the explanation.  They will just assume that it is not a fit, so be sure to hedge your bets and answer those unspoken questions.  Let them know how excited you are about the opportunity and even if you do not end up landing the job that you would love to grab coffee because you are always interested in learning.  You would love the chance to hear their story.  Always be positive and genuine.  People are automatically attracted to those they do not feel are only trying to get a job out of them.  And who knows, you might learn something.  I hate to say it but it is really all about who you know sometimes, so you need to keep expanding your circle.  This is how you do it, by genuinely connecting with like-minded professionals in your industry.
  4. Extracurricular Activities or Professional Associations:  Whether you are a student with little experience or a tenured professional, I would add (in order of relevance) after Activities or Associations.  Try to make it obvious how these add to your qualifications for the specific job you are applying.  Make sure you can share measurable accomplishments.  It gives your prospective employer an idea of the scope or level of responsibility you had.  The company does not know context, so you need to provide it for them.  If you are a student, perhaps you were the first one to increase membership of your chapter to a certain level.  You should share how you did so.  Or if you are on the Board of a Professional Association, and they never had a formal marketing strategy or campaign and you implemented one, then you should share the results of that.
  5. Skills:  Not sure you need a Skills Section, unless you are applying for a technical position.  These usually include phrases like, "Proficient in Microsoft Office, Excellent Communication Skills, Team Player etc."  They are all generic terms that most people have on their resumes and they are also hard to measure, so they do not really mean anything.  If however, you are applying for a technical role, then by all means, do list all those capabilities.  Technical jobs can be a different animal altogether.
I know you hate to hear it but you really need to have a different resume and cover letter for each job you apply for.  I know what you are thinking, "Well that is a lot of work.  I do not want to do that."  That is, of course, your choice.  However, if you have applied to numerous positions without any responses, then maybe it is time to consider doing something different.  Go ahead and try some of the tips I mentioned.  Do a test run with 3-5 companies.  What do you have to lose?  You might actually write a resume that gets you a response.

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Monday, January 6, 2014

What is Boolean and How to Use it to Make Your Life Easier

What is Boolean?  Think of Boolean as a language to use when typing into any search engine.  You might be thinking, "I don't need to know that.  I can do a Google search right now.  It's not rocket science."  You might think it does not matter, but it is only because you do not know what you do not know.  If you are familiar with Boolean, then your searches will be much more effective and your results will be that much more useful for you.

You could take several classes on Boolean and still not know everything, so this post will just cover the basics and some of my favorites.  Here goes:

1.  OR - Let's say I am searching for a job.  To save time and avoid doing separate searches for all the different job titles I am looking for, I might type the following into Google - "human resources" OR recruiter OR "employee relations" OR "HR partner".  It basically tells Google (You can also use Yahoo or Bing) that results with any of those terms will work.  If you did not use OR, then it would default to AND, and give you only results that included all of those terms. Notice how I also used quotation marks around phrases.  I wanted the whole phrase "human resources".  Otherwise the results would just make sure the words human and resources were mentioned somewhere and in any order in the article.  (I know.  I cheated.  That was like 3 lessons in one, but I know how smart you are.  I did not think quotation marks and the default AND needed separate bullet points).

2.   - (minus sign) - Let's stick with the job search example.  Perhaps I am not looking for jobs at the Director or Coordinator level.  I am going for the professional/manager sweet spot.  I would add this to my previous search string (bolded in #1) -director -coordinator.  Make sure there is no space between the minus sign and your word.  Spaces are default ANDs.  Also be sure to use the minus sign and not the dash sign.

3.  inurl: - Let's say I only want results from a specific website or type of website.  Maybe I only want to search government websites.  You might do this if you are looking up a law or doing research and want to make sure your source is legit.
You would type this into Google:
Again make sure there are no spaces.
If you were looking for only educational websites you might type .edu
If you wanted to search for someone on LinkedIn and do not want to be limited by your connections, you could type
For instance if I wanted to find out who was in human resources at Qualcomm in San Diego, I would type in the following: "san diego" "human resources" Qualcomm
Go ahead.  Try it.  In LinkedIn, you are normally limited by your connections in regards to who you can see, but not with this trick.

Starting to see how Boolean might be useful?  Boolean is very specific though which is why I gave the above examples on separate lines.  I did not want you to confuse the period at the end of my sentence as part of the search string you would type into Google.  A simple period or space can throw off your Boolean search string and produce erroneous results.

I have used Boolean to search for gift ideas, when trying to remember titles of movies, or looking for local places to eat.  You name it, and you could probably use Boolean to make your search even better.  It's a great skill to have in the workplace or in the classroom.  As a student, it is invaluable to find great quotable articles and resources online.  As an HR Professional I often use it when recruiting.

Have you tried it yet?  Having any issues?  Please feel free to post your Boolean search strings below if you want help.  I would be happy to assist.

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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Where to Eat Sushi in San Diego - Harney Sushi, Old Town

Harney Sushi
It is hard to find great sushi, but I have to say that Harney Sushi in Old Town, San Diego is pretty darn good.  I am pretty picky when it comes to sharing restaurants on my blog.  There are quite a few that never were.  Poor orphaned photos left on my iPhone with nowhere to go.  The test you ask?  Is the food close-your-eyes, make you say "Mmmm...", and yes, makes me actually pause while writing this post to stare off for a moment and remember just how delicious it really was.

And just to throw icing on the cake, I always love a good social media savvy restaurant.  On the table, Harney Sushi had a little note that asked you to "Use your creative juices and take photos of anything Harney:  food, people, music, ambiance...even yourself!"  You then just need to tag your photos #harneysushi on Instagram, and every month a winner will receive a $25 Harney gift card.  Talk about genius!  They got me to look up @harneysushi, and what do you know, I followed them.  Instant and fun free marketing!  I love when I feel like I recognize great business practice being done.  I learn something.  I find myself doing the head nod, as I realize how very clever and smart the business owners are, and then I invisibly tip my hat to them for their genius.

So back to the food.  I am obsessed with their steam buns (pictured above, along with the rest of the spread from our mid-afternoon lunch date).  These are a take on the traditional Chinese steam buns, except Harney has made them taco style and added a delicious pickled vegetable slaw.  Sit that on top of their plum bbq pulled pork, and your taste buds just explode.  So yummy. We also had their Bomb James Bomb and Rollz Royce rolls.  Highly recommend those choices.  Even their green tea ice cream was good, and I am not usually a fan of green tea ice cream.  Paired with tempura strawberries and "cinnamon toast" crunchies, there was nothing left.  AND, they even served Izze and Mexican Pepsi.  Finally, they Apple-d it up, and we paid via a mini-iPad that the server had holstered on her waist.  Fantastic.

So if you are looking for some good sushi and happen to be in Old Town San Diego, stop by Harney Sushi. Do you have any favorite sushi spots?  I am always looking for great sushi.

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Saturday, January 4, 2014

How to Cut the Calories at Starbucks - White Chocolate Mocha Alternative

How to Cut Calories at Starbucks
So how do you cut the calories at Starbucks?

I love their White Chocolate Mocha but at 470 calories a-Grande-pop, it is definitely an indulgence.  And yes, I know you can order it non-fat and no whip BUT that still only gets you to 350 calories.

I am so excited though to announce I have found an alternative with half the calories!  And it still tastes yummy and satisfies that WM craving.  That's White Mocha in cool Starbucks shorthand (wink wink).

So what is it you ask?  Well it is a Misto!  What is a Misto?  It is basically half steamed milk, half coffee.  A White Mocha, on the other hand, is mostly steamed milk with a couple shots of espresso and whip cream on top.  Because a Misto is only half milk, it automatically cuts the calories.  So I just order a Grande Nonfat Misto with 2 pumps of White Chocolate for a GRAND TOTAL of 190 CALORIES!

So the next time you are at Starbucks and have a White Chocolate Mocha craving, order a Nonfat Misto with a couple pumps of white chocolate instead.  You will satisfy your sweet tooth and save on the calories.  Have another drink you want to make calorie friendly?  Comment below and I will see how I can help you out.

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Thursday, January 2, 2014

What is an EAP?

Employee Benefits Counseling
So, what is an EAP?  Well, to start, I am talking about an Employee Assistance Program.  Most employers have one but many employees have no idea what it is or that they have access to it.

Each EAP varies from plan to plan but usually, as part of your corporate benefits, you are given 6 free counseling sessions for each issue you have for you and your household members.  Available 24/7 and completely confidential, the EAP is a great resource if you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed.  As I mentioned, the 6 free counseling sessions are for each issue that you have, so you could technically have 6 counseling sessions for you and your spouse, 6 counseling sessions for you and your children, and 6 counseling sessions for you individually for, let's say, work-related stress.  It is also for your household members, so not necessarily just your legal dependents.  You could use the sessions to mediate relations between you and your roommate if you wanted.  Again, please check with your individual EAP for plan details, as each one will vary.  Human Resources would be an excellent place to start for more information.

I would also like to highlight that the EAP is more than just counseling.  Here are some other areas they provide assistance:
  1. Well-Being - Including but not limited to information on alcohol and drugs, smoking, weight management, and more.
  2. Family Life - These resources can help you with everything from family planning, childcare, elder care, finding support groups (for cancer, stroke, etc), planning a funeral and many other things in-between.
  3. Career - Learn how to thrive during change at work, plan your career path, and prepare successfully for your retirement.
  4. Education - Whether for you individually or for your children, your EAP can help you do your homework so you can find out what you need to know.
  5. Legal and Financial - Includes setting up a trust, a living will, buying a home, managing debt, understanding social security, and more.
As I mentioned, the first 6 counseling sessions are free with your benefits.  Many of the other services, like the Legal and Financial, will incur a cost if you actually engage and book services, but the initial call is usually free, and most of the time, an additional discount is given as an EAP referral.  There is really nothing to lose by exploring these services.

I have personally taken advantage of my EAP's counseling sessions on 2 separate occasions and would highly recommend it.  I know there can sometimes be a stigma attached to "seeing a therapist," but for all intents and purposes, everyone needs help at one point or another.  Everyone can benefit from getting an outside perspective.  I personally came out of therapy a much stronger and well-rounded individual.  I learned a lot of great skills that I employ today at work and at home.  I am much happier and healthier because of it.  

Think of your EAP as a life-help program.  It is a free resource that most employers include with your benefits.  Do not be afraid to take advantage of it.

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